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Life of Charlemagne by Einhard, Research Paper Example

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Research Paper

Life of Charlemagne by Einhard is singlehandedly the best biography written about Charlemagne, also known as Charles the Great, the King of Franks and later the Emperor of the Romans. Einhard, who called Charlemagne his “lord and foster-father” (page 11) was at that time one of King’s closest associates in the palace. After the death of Charlemagne’s father the kingdom has been ruled by two kings, brothers Charlemagne and Carloman (who not long after being crowned a king caught a disease and died) and ever since then he has been a loyal servant to the former.  As he tells his audience in the book, the close relationship that he sustained through all those years influenced him in writing  this book. He says, “…The care that King Charles bestowed upon me in my childhood, and my constant friendship with himself and his children after I took up my abode at court” (page13). This survey gives a close look not only at the man himself, but also the events that took place around him, in particular the wars, which he almost always won. In addition, the book explores the culture that Charlemagne has formed for himself and with which he governed his people.  In this essay I shall seek to identify the German traditions which Charlemagne greatly sustained and further preserved, the Roman practices which had a great influence on him and his people as well, and the presence of Christianity during the reign of Charlemagne which, as I will argue was the strongest and most influential tool in the governing of his people and for the personal satisfaction.

First and foremost, it is crucial and natural to discuss Charlemagne’s native culture, that is the German culture and how he sustained and further preserved it throughout his life. It is important to say that when Charlemagne was still in its infancy his father was quite involved in battles and expanding his kingdom.  Prior to his existence, even Charlemagne’s grandfather was still a conqueror who never wanted the Franks to be conquered or tyrannized in any way. Einhard says,  “It was this Charles [grandfather of Charlemagne] that crushed the tyrants who claimed to rule the whole Frank as their own” (page 17). Another form of Germanic tradition, which perhaps was perhaps famous in the Germanic people, in particular with nobles, was the militancy and conquering attitude. Charlemagne himself began to be involved in wars at an early age. His first war was the Aquitanian War, which his father started but did not bring it to an end until Charlemagne himself participated in it.  As Charlemagne grew older his military campaigns only enhanced to great levels and he went as far as Spain. Einhard says, “He so largely increased the Frank kingdom, which was already great and strong when he received it at his father’s hands, that more than double its former territory was added to it” (page 40). On a more personal note, Charlemagne and his family strictly followed and protected Frankish traditions and family cultures. For instance, according to their tradition, boys have to learn horsemanship, battle among many other things. Another important factor that was noble families gave extra attention to was the education. According to Einhard, ” The plan that he [Charlemagne] adopted for his children’s education was, first of all, to have both boys and girls instructed in the liberal arts, to which he also turned his own attention” (page 51). In addition,  Charlemagne frequently took exercise on horseback which is a national custom. When he came to clothes,  he still preserved his domestic culture. In regards to Charlemagne’s clothing Einhard says, “He used to wear the national, that is to say, the Frank, dress-next his skin a linen shirt and linen breeches, and above these a tunic fringed with silk; He used to wear the national, that is to say, the Frank, dress-next his skin a linen shirt and linen breeches, and above these a tunic fringed with silk” (page 58). In fact, as Einhard points out later in the book, Charlemagne did not like wearing foreign clothes and only wore foreign clothes twice in his life. This self-explanatory concept explains Charlemagne’s love for his culture.  In sum,  Charlemagne closely followed his traditions and did not shy away from his culture, but himself participated in the dynamics of keeping his people’s and his family’s traditions.

Another important factor that was perhaps undividable from Charlemagne’s life is the Roman influence in his life, his culture, and overall practices.  The historical roots of Roman practices go back to his father, who was raised by the Roman pontiff.  Einhard, however, does not mention of any linkage between Charlemagne and the Roman practices until the discussion of “Lombard War,” which not only has religious aspect to it (will be thoroughly analyzed in the next paragraph) but also a cultural one. After the war, Charlemagne “restored to the Romans all that they had lost; subdued Hruodgaus, Duke of Friuli [776], who was plotting revolution; reduced all Italy to his power, and set his son Pepin as king over it” (pages 24-25).  Charlemagne, however was not  simply doing favors for them- he had deep connections not only with them but also with other near nations. For instance, he gave one of his daughters, Hruodrud, got married to the Greek Emperor, Constantine VI.  Lastly, Charlemagne at an early age commenced learning Latin. Einhard says, “He was not satisfied with command of his native language merely, but gave attention to the study of foreign ones, and in particular was such a master of Latin that he could speak it as well as his native tongue; but he could understand Greek better than he could speak.” All in all, Charlemagne did have some practices and influences from Romans, but the most dominating practice and influence that he had was his religion, Christianity.

Christianity perhaps  played the most vital role in Charlemagne’s way of governing. The second war that he waged against Lombards was influenced by Hadrian, the Bishop of the Rome who deeply encouraged him to start a war.  But the wars do not end there: as Einhard says, the war against Saxons started and lasted for so long with one main reason, devil worshiping by Saxons. According to Einhard, “No war ever undertaken by the Frank nation was carried on with such persistence and bitterness, or cost so much labor, because the Saxons, like almost all the tribes of Germany, were a fierce people, given to the worship of devils, and hostile to our religion, and did not consider it dishonorable to transgress and violate all law, human and divine” (page 26).Einhard claims that if it wasn’t for the arrogance of Saxons to stay so faithless all those years  the war would’ve stopped long time ago. This explains how devout Charlemagne was to Christianity. On a more personal level he built a church, Mother of God at Aix-la-Chapelle which was a half a mile long. Also, anything that seemed like a religious material in its ruined stage was sponsored by Charlamagne himself to be renovated. All these accounts speak of one thing- Charlemagne was dependent on the word of God.

In sum, there were three main categories that were present in Charlemagne’s personal culture: German custom, Roman practices, and Christianity.  Even though Charlemagne deeply believed in his nation’s culture and followed them every time, it still did not amount to his love for Christianity. His Roman practices too played a crucial role in governing his people but I believe Christianity  radically changed some courses in his and his people’s lives. For instance, in the name of God his people went to war against others. Also, he was in contact with Rome all the time.  In addition, he built the church which would serve for his primary, every day practices. When it came to Roman practices and German customs he still did not fall behind but those were occasional practices. Christianity was an everyday practice and dominated his daily life.

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